May 20, 2024

Call to revoke Nobel prize for lobotomy inventor

Relatives of patients who underwent lobotomies are lobbying to revoke a Nobel Prize for Medicine awarded to the inventor of the procedure. Portuguese neurosurgeon Egas Moniz developed the technique in 1935 as a way of treating people with severe psychiatric illnesses and was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for medicine. Even at the time, the technique was controversial, with some doctors criticising it as brutal, unscientific and harmful. However, in some cases spectacular recoveries happened and between the mid-1930s and the 1970s, about 50,000 Americans received lobotomies.

Some lobotomised patients, however, had to be institutionalised after the operation. The daughter of one woman who became unable to care for herself after a 1949 lobotomy to cure chronic headaches is now agitating to strip Moniz of his prize. But the director of the Nobel foundation has flatly refused to consider the idea. “There’s no possibility to revoke it,” says Michael Sohlman. “It’s a non- starter.”